Organic food to become standard in French canteens

The French government has accepted a proposal made by Brigitte Allain of Europe Écologie Les Verts (Europe Ecology – The Greens) to impose a minimum amount of organic and seasonal produce into school canteens, public sector catering and social services.

The amendment to the law means that at least 40% of such food must be seasonal and locally-grown, and 20% must be certified as organic. We spoke to Eva Muller of Slow Food France for her take on the matter:

“While it certainly seems like good news on paper, there still is a lot of work ahead for this motion to come into being, but there is a very real interest in it being carried forward, particularly among producers of organic food.

Ideally I think all the canteen and restaurant employees will have to be committed to the initiative, not just the teams working directly in the kitchens. Indeed, for this amendment to make any sense it’s going to take a considerable investment, and real dynamism from all actors in the food industry: to organize production, to promote organic producers for whom extra land will be needed. Logistics is also a key element. In my region, producers have gathered to put a local distribution platform in place: we need more projects like this, whether they are initiated by producers or communities.

As far as the kitchens are concerned, it may be necessary to raise awareness among people who work with food, as in many cases they are not convinced of the need for a change in eating habits. It may also be necessary to offer training in order to facilitate the amendment’s implementation, as well as visits to organic producers in order to publicize the work they do.

If seasonal, local and organic food is an essential first step, we must look ahead to the next steps: revising the quota of animal protein served each week in canteen and restaurant menus, and favoring a more plant-based protein regime. Emphasizing the importance of combating food waste is also an essential element: there are large amounts of food wasted that could be put to better use. And last but not least, the need to raise awareness among consumers on the considerable benefits these changes will have for our health, our economy, and our environment.

There are more and more canteens and restaurants that have integrated organic local products into their menus but unfortunately they remain a minority. It’s our job to share these practices as best we can. The movement towards a new way of eating, which Slow Food is a part of, must encourage progress and above all to continue raising awareness on the importance of a good, fair and clean. I tend to think that the only way this amendment will be successful is if a large amount of activists and associations support its promotion.”

Image from: Libération.

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